Boots & Sabers

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Category: Politics – Texas

Texas Abortion Law Remains in Effect

The process continues.

The law, which went into effect on Sept. 1, was briefly paused after a federal judge issued a temporary injunction last week barring its enforcement. Days later, the law was reinstated after a panel of judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary administrative stay.

 

In the latest development of the high-profile case, the court rejected the Justice Department’s request to again halt Texas’ ability to enforce the law. In a 2-1 order Thursday night, a panel of judges granted Texas’s request to continue to stay the preliminary injunction while it pursues its appeal.

 

The court’s order did not detail its reasoning behind the ruling, which is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Appeals Court Sets Aside Lower Court Ruling to Allow Texas’ Abortion Law to Be Enforced

Excellent. This will go through a number of advances and reversals, but hopefully ends with an affirmation that babies are humans endowed with inalienable rights who deserve to be protected.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal appeals court Friday night quickly allowed Texas to resume banning most abortions, just one day after clinics began racing to serve patients again for the first time since early September.

 

A one-page order by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the nation’s strictest abortion law, which bans abortions once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks. It makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

 

“Patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents several Texas clinics that had briefly resumed normal abortion services.

She called on the U.S. Supreme Court to “step in and stop this madness.”

 

Clinics had braced for the New Orleans-based appeals court to act fast after U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, an appointee of President Barack Obama, on Wednesday suspended the Texas law that he called an “offensive deprivation” of the constitutional right to an abortion. Knowing that order might not stand long, a handful of Texas clinics immediately started performing abortions again beyond six weeks, and booked new appointments for this weekend.

 

But barely 48 hours passed before the appeals court accepted Texas’ request to set aside Pitman’s ruling — at least for now — pending further arguments. It gave the Biden administration, which had brought the lawsuit, until Tuesday to respond.

Texas Passes Fetal Heartbeat Law to Protect Babies

Wonderful news.

A law banning abortion from as early as six weeks into pregnancy has come into effect in the US state of Texas.

 

It bans abortions after the detection of what anti-abortion campaigners call a foetal heartbeat, something medical authorities say is misleading.

 

The law, one of the most restrictive in the country, took effect after the Supreme Court did not respond to an emergency appeal by abortion providers.

Doctors and women’s rights groups have heavily criticised the law.

 

It gives any individual the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion past the six-week point.

 

The so-called “Heartbeat Act” was signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in May.

Texas Gets Closer to More Secure Elections

While Wisconsin’s governor is supporting cheating, Texas is getting closer to better elections.

Democrats, who acknowledge they cannot permanently stop the GOP voting bill from passing because of Republicans’ dominance in both chambers of the Texas Legislature, responded to the warrants with new shows of defiance. One turned up in a Houston courtroom and secured a court order aimed at preventing him from being forced to return to the Capitol.

 

The NAACP also stepped in on behalf of the Texas Democrats, urging the Justice Department to investigate whether a federal crime was being committed when Republicans threatened to have them arrested.

 

Refusing to attend legislative sessions is a violation of House rules — a civil offense, not a criminal one, leaving the power the warrants carry to get Democrats back to the chamber unclear, even for the Republicans who invoked it. Democrats would not be jailed. Republican Travis Clardy, who helped negotiate an early version of the voting bill that Democrats first stopped with a walkout in May, said he believes Democrats can be physically brought back to the Capitol.

 

State Rep. Jim Murphy, who leads the Texas House Republican Caucus, said while he has not seen a situation like this play out during his tenure, his understanding is that officers could go to the missing lawmakers and ask them to come back.

 

“I am hoping they will come because the warrants have been issued and they don’t want to be arrested,” Murphy said. “It is incredible to me that you have to arrest people to do the job they campaigned for, for which they took an oath of office to uphold the Texas Constitution.”

Texas Democrats “Pissed off” that Biden Hasn’t Met with Them

Perhaps Biden does still have his wits about him… or Mrs. Biden does.

But they still await the biggest get of all: President Joe Biden. And on Thursday, they expressed frustration over the White House’s apparent disinterest in scheduling a meeting with members of the Texas group.

 

During a Zoom conversation with U.S. Rep Lloyd Doggett of Austin, state Rep. Richard Peña Raymond of Laredo vented about the holdup.

 

“He won’t meet with us on Zoom like this, and I’m trying to be tactful, but I don’t know how else to say it, man. I’m just pissed off at this point. He doesn’t give us the respect the way you have,” Raymond told Doggett.

 

And in a subsequent Zoom meeting with Beto O’Rourke, in which the former Democratic congressman and presidential candidate announced a $600,000 donation to help pay for the Washington sojourn, O’Rourke encouraged them to ramp up pressure on the White House.

 

“I feel very strongly about this. I think you need to center and focus all of your effort on the president,” O’Rourke said.

Texas Passes Constitutional Carry

Washington (CNN)Texans will soon be able to carry handguns in public without obtaining licenses or training after the state’s Republican governor on Wednesday signed a permitless carry gun bill into law.

The measure approved by Gov. Greg Abbott allows individuals 21 and older who can legally possess firearms in the state to carry handguns in public places without permits. The legislation is set to go into effect in September.

Texas to Defend Border

What a shame that Texas state taxpayers have to shoulder the burden of border defense for the rest of the country.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday he will soon unveil plans for the construction of a wall along the state’s shared border with Mexico as part of a slew of actions meant to address an ongoing immigration crisis.

 

“The ability to arrest will be enhanced by building border barriers. Some of these border barriers will be built immediately, and whenever anybody tries to modify, attempt, or get through any of these border barriers, that in itself is a crime for which they can be arrested,” Abbott said. “But, on top of that, I will announce next week the plan for the state of Texas to begin building the border wall.”

“you can’t tell a kid they should feel shame because of the color of their skin.”

Good for Texas

Toth’s bill, which has passed in both chambers of the Texas Legislature and is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for signature into law, states that social studies and civics teachers are not allowed to discuss the concept that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex,” or the idea that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.”

 

The bill also states that teachers cannot be compelled to talk about current events, and if they do, they must “give deference to both sides.” While supporters say this provision promotes objective teaching, critics counter that it limits honest conversation around the deep-rooted issues surrounding the history of race and racism in the U.S.

 

“The more people learn about critical race theory, whether Republican or Democrat, the more they oppose it,” said Toth, who noted that he is also a preacher, and said God led him to write this bill limiting the teaching of what he termed “an offshoot of critical theory and Marxism.”

 

Yet he also said his bill wouldn’t prevent a discussion about critical race theory, but would prevent teachers from endorsing what he sees as its conclusions.

 

“We’re not saying you can’t talk about critical race theory,” he added. “We’re saying you can’t tell a kid they should feel shame because of the color of their skin.”

Republicans Stand Up for Police and the Voters Reward Them at the Polls

Something to learn here. Despite the radical rhetoric of a few, the vast majority of Americans support their police.

Eleven Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives, most of them from the Rio Grande Valley, voted with Republican lawmakers last Friday to approve a bill that was crafted in response to the City of Austin’s police budget cuts last year.

 

HB 1900 would trigger disannexation elections in parts of any city with a population of more than 250,000, in the event that the governor’s office designated the city a “defunding municipality.” The bill would also allow the state comptroller to withhold sales taxes owed to a “defunding” city and redirect it to the Department of Public Safety.

 

Those measures would make it difficult for Austin to move forward with aspects of its ongoing Reimagining Public Safety process, and could even pressure the city council to roll back cuts made to the police budget last year.

 

Politically, the vote on HB 1900 signals an emerging divide between Progressive Democrats in the larger cities of Texas and more centrist Democrats in south Texas. Republicans made significant inroads in the Rio Grande Valley in the 2020 election, improving their standing in national races, though state legislative seats in the region are still held by long-serving Democrats.

 

[…]

 

Looking ahead to the 2022 midterm election, Republican leaders are hoping to use police funding again as a wedge issue. During floor debate, Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth), the lead author of HB 1900, described it repeatedly as “the pro-police, Back the Blue bill.” Likewise, Raymond framed the bill as an election issue, cautioning fellow Democrats, “Understand, politically, that if you don’t vote for this bill it could be misinterpreted that you are not strong on law enforcement.”

 

“Absolutely, I’d use it against you. I’d use it against you in a heartbeat,” he said. “So expect that if you (vote against it). It’s a redistricting year. Some of the districts are going to change up. And issues will come up, they just will. So think about that a little bit.”

 

Judging by the vote counts on HB 1900 and a similar bill in the senate, SB 23, that message seems to be sinking in. Democrats in both chambers of the legislature—particularly those who represent majority Hispanic constituencies in the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, and Houston—increasingly appear wary of falling into a GOP trap  by opposing so-called “Back the Blue” legislation.

Texas Ends Federal Unemployment Enhancement

Wisconsin needs to follow the lead of the 17 states that have done this.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that Texas will end federal pandemic-related unemployment assistance, more than two months earlier than it was set to expire, fueling the debate over whether benefits are contributing to labor shortages as the economic recovery accelerates.

 

The move was praised by employers, who have complained that supplemental federal benefits of $300 a week are leading some workers to stay at home rather than take jobs as they ramp up for the post-COVID recovery. Economists, however, had downplayed the impact of additional benefits that helped people pay bills and keep food in the fridge, saying the reasons for reported labor shortages are myriad and complex.

 

Texas joins at least 16 other states that have elected to opt out of federal unemployment programs before their expiration in September. Additional benefits in Texas would end June 26.

Texas Senate Passes Constitutional Carry

Huzzah, huzzah. I lived in Texas when the concealed carry bill passed the first time and was in the first wave. I lived in Wisconsin when the concealed carry bill passed and was in the first wave. It’s nice to see the expansion of liberty in my lifetime (in this regard, anyway).

The Texas Senate has voted to advance a bill that will allow people to carry handguns in the state without a license, setting up the state to be the largest in the country to allow permitless carry.

 

The legislation passed by an 18-13 margin along party lines Wednesday evening. The bill would allow people 21 and older who can already legally own a gun to carry a handgun in public without the license, safety course and background check current law requires.

 

The bill now heads to the House, which passed similar legislation earlier this year but will not consider changes the Senate made to the bill before sending it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) desk.

This made me chuckle.

“More criminals are going to walk around with guns openly, I promise you,” state Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D) said during floor debate, according to The Dallas Morning News. “More vigilantes are going to rise up.”

It’s always the same old tired scary rhetoric. Meanwhile:

Twenty other states allow some form of permitless carry.

Austin Voters Overwhelmingly Reject Unfettered Homeless Camps

Even in Austin, the city government is way to the Left of the people.

In a hotly contested debate involving the city’s homelessness crisis, 57% of voters said they were in favor of reinstating criminal penalties for camping in public spaces and 42% said they were not.

 

More than 150,000 voters cast a ballot: 85,830 in favor, 64,409 against.

 

Proposition B took center stage among eight ballot propositions, giving residents the voice they did not have two years ago when Mayor Steve Adler and the Austin City Council made it lawful to camp in most public spaces by canceling a 23-year-old ordinance that had prohibited it.

 

The council’s decision to end the ban sparked a backlash from many Austin residents and business owners, particularly as the city’s unsheltered population seemed to multiply during the COVID-19 pandemic. Save Austin Now — the political action committee behind the push to reinstate the ban — raised $1.25 million in financial donations through April 21 and leased 29 billboards. The PAC’s co-founder, Matt Mackowiak, the Travis County Republican Party chair, said the fundraising total as of Saturday was around $1.75 million.

 

CEO Fired After Power Grid Failure

It’s good to see some accountability.

Bill Magness, CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, was fired on Wednesday in the wake of February’s deadly blackouts that left millions without electricity and heat in freezing temperatures.

 

As power grid manager, Magness was given a 60-day termination notice by the company’s board of directors. He has not released a statement yet on his termination, but he informed the board that he will not seek or accept severance pay, according to an updated employment agreement.

Cruz Cruises

Heh

A chastened Ted Cruz landed back in Houston on Thursday afternoon and said he ‘regrets’ flying to Cancun in the middle of the state’s energy crisis for a vacation, but insisted he was ‘just trying to be a dad’.

 

Cruz enraged his state by fleeing in the midst of the worst snow storms to hit in decades, with the power failing for millions of Americans, and people left freezing in the subzero temperatures.

Horrible optics, for sure, but it is a bit disheartening that people think that it is the role of a U.S. Senator to jump to the aid of a weather crisis. Do we really rely on politicians to fix all of our problems?

Make Wisconsin a destination state

I forgot to post this… here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week.

Elon Musk made big headlines when he announced that he would move Tesla’s headquarters from California to Texas, but he is actually a bit late to the trend. Over the past decade, over 10,000 companies have fled California for other states with Texas being the number one destination. Joining Tesla in just the last month, tech giants Oracle and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have announced that they are moving their headquarters to Texas. There is no reason why Wisconsin could not also be a destination state for businesses. It is a policy choice, and it will take some hard work.

Musk’s comments about his decision were as flamboyant as ever. Calling California “fascist” and “entitled,” he made his announcement with his customary flourish. But underneath the bombast is a calculated business decision to operate in a state that is a better climate for the business and his employees. It is the same business decision being made by thousands of companies.

The effects of coronavirus are enabling and accelerating the movement. When the pandemic forced employees to work from home, many companies and employees found that it worked well for both. Remote working is particularly sustainable in industries like technology and financial services. With employees able to work from anywhere, one of the challenges to moving a headquarters is removed. It is much easier for a business to launch into another state when they do not need to overcome the gravitational pull generated by employee density.

As companies are liberated from needing to worry as much about where employees live, they are free to look to locate in states that offer a better climate for the business and the top leadership. Texas is a destination because of the policy choices made by state leaders for decades. Texas has no personal income tax, no corporate income tax, a lower cost of living, a businessfriendly regulatory climate, world-class universities, and a vibrant, diverse place to live. There is no reason that Wisconsin could not become the Texas of the 2030s, but we will have to start making changes now.

Governor Scott Walker and the Republican Legislature made Wisconsin significantly more attractive to businesses in the last decade. They did so by reducing the regulatory burden and slightly controlling taxes. They did not make the big systemic changes or spending cuts that will be needed to make Wisconsin a prime destination state. In order to become a business magnet, lawmakers will need to lower the cost of living and doing business by do things like eliminating the personal income tax, reducing or eliminating the corporate income tax, lowering fees and taxes across the board, and reducing the regulatory burden.

For comparison, the state of Texas spends about $4,361 per person. The state of Wisconsin spends about $8,785 per person. Local spending is a little closer, but Wisconsin still spends more. Texas spends $5,663 per person while Wisconsin spends $6,169 per person. All told, Wisconsin state and local governments spend $4,930 more per year per person than Texas. That is $19,720 per year in additional taxing and spending for a family of four. Wisconsin cannot reduce the cost of government and, subsequently, the cost of living if it does not reduce government spending.

One wonders where all of that spending is going. Both states have world-class public universities, but Texas state taxpayers spend less than 50% per capita on them. Both states have a good transportation infrastructure, but Wisconsin state taxpayers spend 13.8% more per capita. Wisconsin is spending almost 28% more on K-12 education for marginally better results, but the student demographics are drastically different.

Generally, as one goes through the state budget, Wisconsin spends much more on almost everything than other states. It is difficult to see any additional value for all of that additional spending. “Value” should be the word that dominates the upcoming state budget debate. If taxpayers are going to spend 10%, 25%, or 50% more on something than other states, then state politicians should be able to articulate how taxpayers are getting 10%, 25%, or 50% more value for the dollars spent. If they can’t, then the spending is just being wasted.

The upcoming budget session is another opportunity for Wisconsin policy-makers to make the choices that will determine if Wisconsin will ever be a destination state for businesses and workers. If they choose to keep increasing spending because it is the path of least resistance, then businesses and people will continue to relocate into other states and Wisconsin will miss this historic opportunity when businesses are going to be moving more than ever.

Make Wisconsin a destination state

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I continue to charge the windmill of Wisconsin government’s spending problem. Here’s a part:

Wisconsin cannot reduce the cost of government and, subsequently, the cost of living if it does not reduce government spending.

One wonders where all of that spending is going. Both states have world-class public universities, but Texas state taxpayers spend less than 50% per capita on them. Both states have a good transportation infrastructure, but Wisconsin state taxpayers spend 13.8% more per capita. Wisconsin is spending almost 28% more on K-12 education for marginally better results, but the student demographics are drastically different.

Generally, as one goes through the state budget, Wisconsin spends much more on almost everything than other states. It is difficult to see any additional value for all of that additional spending. “Value” should be the word that dominates the upcoming state budget debate. If taxpayers are going to spend 10%, 25%, or 50% more on something than other states, then state politicians should be able to articulate how taxpayers are getting 10%, 25%, or 50% more value for the dollars spent. If they can’t, then the spending is just being wasted.

The upcoming budget session is another opportunity for Wisconsin policy-makers to make the choices that will determine if Wisconsin will ever be a destination state for businesses and workers. If they choose to keep increasing spending because it is the path of least resistance, then businesses and people will continue to relocate into other states and Wisconsin will miss this historic opportunity when businesses are going to be moving more than ever.

Oracle And HP Move to Texas

The flight from California is accelerating. Let’s just hope that they don’t turn Texas blue in the process.

Tech giant Oracle Corp. said Friday it will move its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Austin, Texas, and let many employees choose their office locations and decide whether to work from home.

The business software maker said it will keep major hubs at its current home in Redwood City, California, and other locations.

‘We believe these moves best position Oracle for growth and provide our personnel with more flexibility about where and how they work,’ the company said in a regulatory filing.

[…]

This month, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, one of the early companies in Silicon Valley, said it will move to the Houston area and build a campus with two five-story buildings by 2022.

‘HPE’s largest U.S. employment hub, Houston is an attractive market to recruit and retain future diverse talent, and is where the company is currently constructing a state-of-the-art new campus,’ the company said in a statement.

[…]

Texas also offers a lower cost of living and no state income tax, both of which may appeal Oracle as well as South Africa-born Musk, 49, who overtook Bill Gates to become the world’s second-wealthiest person last month as Tesla stock reached ever-greater heights.

I would point out that there is nothing stopping Wisconsin from attracting businesses like this. It’s a choice.

Appeals Court Rules Against Judicial Expansion of Mail-In Voting

Excellent.

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Thursday rejected Texas Democrats’ bid to allow all state residents to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic, ruling that the state’s law extending that right only to those over 65 was not unconstitutional age discrimination.

A split three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a lower court’s preliminary ruling that had required the state to expand mail-in voting to all eligible voters.

The Texas case is just one of dozens of court challenges across the country over whether to expand voting rights in light of the pandemic. President Donald Trump, a Republican, has asserted without evidence that voting by mail will result in fraud, although many states have used the practice for decades with no major problems.

Texas law allows voters over age 65, as well as those with certain disabilities, who are ill, absent from their home counties or confined to jail, to vote by mail. In a separate case, the state’s high court ruled in May that the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus was not in itself a valid reason to allow mail-in ballots.

The 5th Circuit’s majority said the state’s law did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on age discrimination because it merely conferred an extra benefit on older residents, rather than limiting the right to vote for younger Texans.

Uncollected Strip Club Fees Defund Rape Crisis Centers

More negative consequences of the unconstitutional stripping of civil rights.

The Texas Sexual Assault Prevention and Crisis Services Program pays for an array of services designed to help crime victims, including rape crisis centers and training for specialized nurse examiners.

But it is funded mainly by a $5-per-patron fee charged to adult businesses, such as strip clubs — shuttered this spring as the government tried to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The uncollected “pole taxes” have drained $5.35 million from the program.

All the stories, all the time

Inmates who work for Texas Correctional Industries typically make garments and other items whose sale contributes revenue to the Department of Criminal Justice. But this spring, in response to a shortage of personal protective equipment, the inmates switched to manufacturing masks, costing the corrections department $3 million in profits.

The Office of Risk Management, the state’s self-insurance agency, says that in recent months it has processed double to triple the typical number of workers’ compensation claims. As of mid-August, the state’s risk managers had received 5,130 claims “potentially related to COVID-19,” spokeswoman Janice McCoy said. Covering the claims could top $6 million.

One Disease. Two States. Different Choices. Different Results.

We are getting to the point when we can compare the effects of different policy reactions to Coronavirus. Let’s take a look, for example, at Texas versus Wisconsin. I still have a lot of family and friends in Texas, so I see a lot of their news too.

The two states responded differently. Here in Wisconsin, we locked down the state and continue to stay locked down. We are ordered to stay at home and any “non-essential” businesses are closed. It is statewide. In Texas, they took a more localized approach. Governor Abbott said, “I am governor of 254 counties in the state of Texas,” he said. “What may be right for places like the large urban areas may not be right at this time for more than two hundred counties that have zero cases of COVID-19.” While the State of Texas imposed some more stringent restrictions on people coming to the state, like mandatory quarantine for people coming into the state from the hot spot areas of New York and Louisiana, the decision to shut down, shelter in place, etc. and the specifics of those orders were left to the individual counties. The result was that counties imposed restrictions as the spread impact their areas and local leaders are accountable to their constituents for the impact of those decisions.

So we have two different policy choices. Wisconsin had a “one size fits all” response that shut down virtually everything. Texas has a more nuanced, localized response that had a few statewide actions, but primarily left it to local policy makers. What are the results?

As of today, Wisconsin has 182 dead out of a population of 5.882 million. That’s a death rate of 0.003094185%.

Texas has 364 dead out of a population of 29 million. That’s a death rate of 0.001255172% .

Despite the fact that Texas has an international border, much more international and national travel, a much larger population of black folks (black folks are being disproportionately impacted by this disease), and shares a border with a hot spot state (Louisiana), Texas has about 40% of the death rate of Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, Abbott is already talking about reopening the Texan economy:

“We will focus on restoring lives while protecting livelihoods. We can and we must do this, we can do both. Expand and restore the livelihoods that Texans want to have by helping them return to work,” Abbott said. “One things about Texans is they so much enjoy working and I know they want to get back into the work force. But we have to articulate also the strategies about ways we can do this safely.”

Governor Evers is mute on opening the Wisconsin economy.

These policy choices will have an impact far more reaching than just this crisis. Business owners will remember who had their back during the crisis. Wisconsin’s economy has been lagging Texas’ for years. Once this is over, the disparity will widen as businesses continue to open and move to states that support business.

 

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